we’re doing it again!

Jueves 23 de junio de 2011

Thursday was yet another full day in the field. After getting back to the station, and sweaty to the max, it was decided that as per-usual a swimming session was in order. Seth, Rocio, Rachel, Mark and Ed ( just along for the ride)  and I loaded up into the back of Alejandro’s small Mazda truck. We headed up to our favorite (lower) location on Espiritu Santo. Once within sight of the bridge we saw that our old standard was a popular place for family and friends after a hard days work. We decided to head further up but after some discussion over time constraints, it was decided that we head back to the location near the bridge. The swimming hole had cleared out a bit but there were still about a dozen people there. After jumping off of some rocks into places were knew were deep; Rachel, Alejandro and I headed up river toward the crevas leading to “Narnia” – the enclosed area closest to the huge falls. Rachel and Alejandro decided to swim underwater and then climb up a chute leading into the stone walled torrent of water. I made the choice to again shimey between rocks and a jammed log. Once over the slippery rocks on the interior and into the water, we swam against the current heading up stream. As I was struggling to keep up, with slippery rock faces 2.5′ on either side of me, I spotted an 1″ shrimp clinging to the wall just above the water. I thought how jealous I was of him living so calmly in such a turbulent yet magical place. Once back to the calm swimming hole on the other side, we took turns using the mask and diving down 12′ to look for Mark’s lost glasses. The water was clear and we could see lots of shrimp. But not glasses. I did find a beaded rasta necklace though. Getting back to the truck, we found Ed out cold sprawled in the bed.

It was my night to cook dinner for our little group. I steamed rice with bits of carrot. In a wok I fried up bean spouts, onions, eggplant, mushrooms and a medley of other canned Asian veggies. In a frying pan I did up a collection of canned seafood; octopus, squid, sardines and mackerel as well as some eggplant and onions. In the middle of our meal we found ourselves suddenly in complete darkness. I quietly got up and turned on the external flash of my SLR. After strobbing a couple of rooms, causing mayhem and confusion, we were suddenly in the light again with the thrum of the generator off in the darkness.

As it turns out today was the holiday of Midsummer Eve or more commonly, Noche de San Juan (or Fiesta de San Juan). The holiday celebrates John The Baptist with festivities all over Europe and Latin America. Here the Puerto Ricans take this holiday to heart given that their capital city is San Juan. After work, the vast majority of the island gathers with family and friends on beaches. They stay there singing, eating, dancing and drinking until midnight when everyone gathers on the oceans edge and runs in backwards 7 times. The idea is that you are then cleansed of old ways and bad luck. So after dinner we quickly cleaned up and packed Francis and as well as Seth’s unfortunate little sedan. After a bit of circling around, both vehicles were at the entrance to a gated beachfront community. After some phone tag, we were inside and parked at  Christina’s (a student researcher here at  El Verde) mom’s second home in Luquillo. She and her boyfriend Agato greeted us at the door, and we were soon jamming to the Beatles and sipping Medalla. 11:00pm came soon enough and we were all headed for the ocean, passing quaint homes and communal pools and courts. Not 5 minutes later and we were among hundreds of locals partying at the balmy beach. At 11:50pm  we began lining the shoreline. Shirts and shoes off. At 11:59pm everyone was faced, back to the ocean and without watches, we waited for the first to head in. Like BestBuy on a very wet Black Friday, it was shenanigans as everyone ran backwards at full force till being tripped up by waves and on their backs just to jump up and do it again. I would yell to Ed as we ran out of the surf “WE’RE DOING IT AGAIN!” After hitting exposed sand we would again run backwards with as much force as we could muster. By the 5-6th time my voice and legs were tired “WE*exhale*ARE*DOING*exhale*exhale*IT*AGAINNnn!!”. After entering the water for what I figured was the 7th time, I fell back into the ocean a bit prematurely. I let the warm waves jostle me for a bit before joining the rest in a splash fest. At one point I fell back into the water, figuring I should error on the safe side not wanting any more back luck in PR.

Looking down along the beach I was reminded on New Years Eve in Times Square minus the winter clothes, big buildings, fireworks or confetti. Leaving the gated community, I was reminded me more of an accident scene with flashing lights and backed up traffic. It was hard to imagine that there was still another day left in the work week.

I jumped up into my top-bunk bed around 2am hoping 7am would not come too fast. It did…

Viernes 24 de junio de 2011

Our team headed to the field minus Alejandro (he had to graduate in Ponce) but with the addition of Chris (our boss). The censusing was slow due to steep slopes, large rocks and a high % of trees. Despite a nice day in the field, we headed back around noon in order to learn more about data entry. The leftover stir fry made for a great warm lunch. In line with a string of bad luck for Liza, (she fell on the wet rocks in the am) she dropped her full bowl  of hot ramen on her foot -yow.

Data entry was actually pretty fun despite the intense leg cramp. At 4pm it was still a nice day so I headed to my hammock for a bit a reading while resulted in a nap. I got up about an hour later and decided to climb up the weather tower on the hill behind the station. The tower is basically 6 stories of aluminum scaffolding with steps inside. At the top there is various data collecting equipment with a great panoramic view of the ocean 180 degrees and mountainous rain-forest on the opposite.   I think I forgot to mention, but Mark and I climbed up this tower the 2nd or 3rd day we were here.

For dinner Ed cooked an awesome medley of fresh veggies and chicken on the grill. At the same time a group of grad students staying at another El Verde building half way down the mountain came up and started grilling. Soon there was a happening party with helmets, hammers, coconuts, Medalla and the best sangria I ever had. This night was cemented in El Verde notoriety after the director of the station came up to chew out the group.  As it turns out there was an infamous “helmet party” last summer making this helmet party II. I watched safely from the porch and had great conversation with Bob (a grad student that sleeps in the bunk under me) and Cathy from Hawaii.

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